Canal Boat - - This Month - with Julie Clark

Grow­ing some win­ter-flow­er­ing lovelies; an icy ce­les­tial vis­i­tor; our acros­tic quiz

It is al­ways handy when a fam­ily mem­ber has a hobby, es­pe­cially at Christ­mas. Un­less, of course, it is just the one – my poor old dad pos­i­tively blanched at the men­tion of yet an­other ‘how to play golf’ book and had a truly spec­tac­u­lar col­lec­tion of ev­ery type of golf tee avail­able. But boats and gar­den­ing – the vari­ants are end­less!

Hap­pily, around Oc­to­ber, gar­den cen­tres start to fill up with all sorts of in­ter­est­ing ideas for the gar­dener – some of which I ad­mit are a lit­tle du­bi­ous such as the pale pink gar­den­ing gloves. But boxes of grow­ing kits al­ways at­tract me and they are not bad for the boat ei­ther.

Ev­ery­thing is in­cluded in the box and all you have to do is as­sem­ble it and wait; a few seeds or bulbs, a lit­tle com­post and a pot – per­fect. Af­ter all, I doubt that a bag of com­post would take prece­dence over a bag of coal dur­ing the win­ter months on a boat. I am es­pe­cially fond of the boxed chilli kits but toma­toes, herbs or bulbs are all bril­liant value for the on board gar­dener.

Of course, not much is hap­pen­ing in the ground and if you want any­thing to grow now you will just have to cheat and hap­pily, thanks to mod­ern hor­ti­cul­tural prac­tices, there will be plenty to choose from to cre­ate a colour­ful dis­play. There will be the jewel like colour­ful prim­u­las, dainty lit­tle cy­cla­men, win­ter pan­sies ga­lore as well as the rather strangely coloured Er­i­cas – does any­one ac­tu­ally buy or­ange, green or blue ar­ti­fi­cially- dyed plants?

When plant­ing up some of th­ese win­ter flow­er­ing lovelies, it is im­por­tant to keep an eye on the wa­ter­ing, too lit­tle and the flow­ers will not de­velop and too much and they will be prone to mould. Grey mould sets in the cen­tre of the plants rot­ting stems and leaves es­pe­cially where the air is not cir­cu­lat­ing. Prim­u­las and cy­cla­men tend to have tightly packed buds at their base so it is im­por­tant to keep a look out for mould and im­me­di­ately re­move any af­fected leaves.

An al­ter­na­tive to flow­er­ing plants would be some of the small ev­er­green shrubs, many of which, such as skim­mia, have beau­ti­ful berries to give some colour, but my favourite win­ter shrub is Christ­mas Box. Sar­coc­coa (Christ­mas Box) is a small ev­er­green shrub, not very ex­cit­ing to look at, but through the win­ter it has small white flow­ers that have the most amaz­ing per­fume.

So whether you enjoy a Christ­mas Box of the ev­er­green va­ri­ety or a Christ­mas box with a gift in­side, I hope you have a very Happy Christ­mas and look for­ward to next year’s gar­den­ing and boat­ing!

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